My Last Japa Dog?


I may never eat at Japa Dog again. I can again eat Japa Dog—see UPDATE below.

Those who know me, realize the absurdity of that statement. I love Japa Dog. I first discovered Japadog in summer 2005 and immediately fell in love with this amazing fusion between an American classic and Japanese flavours. I may have been the first person to introduced Japa Dog to the media on a CBC radio interview with Jian Ghomeshi about street food in 2006. Since then every food geek has written about them and they’ve become a huge success, now with three locations and another to open shortly. Even Anthony Bourdain gave them his blessing on No Reservations.

But unless Japa Dog addresses their lazy and irresponsible view toward recycling, I don’t think I can support them any longer.

Am I overreacting? You tell me. I was really shocked when cooks behind the grill at multiple Japadog locations casually told me they just throw away cans and bottles and “don’t bother” to recycle. I, along with about ten customers standing in line waiting for hot dogs, were shocked and looked at each other in disbelief. The friendly Japanese cook just laughed and said “thank you!” to us.

OK, hold on here a minute. I thought I must have misunderstood him, but a quick glance down revealed a garbage can, with another one on the other side, filled with trash of all kinds—and many cans and bottles—destined for the landfill.


Japadog's idea of a recycling program. Nice.

Now, I realize that the Japa Dog employees are busy, very busy in fact, and dealing with bins full of cans is just another task for them on hot, busy days, but I would argue that could easily be handled. And isn’t it all our responsibility to recycle? It’s so expected these days, it feels almost like it is law.

Obviously the $0.05 refund isn’t a huge incentive to Japa Dog’s owner, but considering the thousands of drinks they sell each week, aren’t they throwing profit away? Couldn’t they at least donate them to a charity that could use this marginal income? OK fine, at $12/hour, it’s not worth the employee’s time to manage piles of used pop cans, but think of how much money they could generate over time for a fund toward social good? So short-sighted.

As we ate our delicious (and perhaps last) hot dog, a homeless person began rummaging through their garbage bins, not more than two feet from waiting customers, taking cans out and leaving a mess, making us all even more uncomfortable. If they’ve decided to just give them to  vagrants—which I disagree with in principle—they could at least have a separate bin for bottles and cans. The whole situation was rather shocking, but the Japanese grill cooks seemed uninterested and unconcerned.

I couldn’t help but wonder what else they “don’t bother” to do? Shudder.

Regardless of the environmental impact, the optics of this choice alone are terrible for Japa Dog’s reputation—just consider the impact of this article alone. Or the Twitter chatter that occurred after I posted a comment last night. Vancouverites take stuff like this quite seriously. So do Japanese I’ve been told. Regardless of my recently consumed Kurobuta Terimayo hot dog, the experience left a foul taste in my mouth.

Beside this rant, I have expressed my feelings to Japa Dog’s owner, Mr. Noriki Tamura, and hope to hear that changes will be made soon. Otherwise, I think I’m done with Japa Dog. I hear that Tandoori Tikka Dog is a tasty alternative.

What do you think? Would you stop patronizing a favourite restaurant for something as minor as their stance on recycling?


In a staggering example of the power of social media, I  received the following email directly from Japa Dog owner, Mr. Tamura, about 30 minutes after emailing him and posting this story:

Hi. Mr. Mark Busse.

Thank you for your Email.

I accepted with sincerity the statement.

I understand we have social responsibility now.

I told to manager at our 3 locations for this issue.
From just now, we use separately the garbage and Recycling  at our 3 location..

Thank you for advice.
And I know I made a mistake.

I appreciate.

Noriki Tamura
[email protected]

Thank God too, ’cause I could really go for a Japa Dog for lunch right now. I think it’s time for an Oroshi!


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